Lyme disease is becoming increasingly common in our region and as many of you know it can be frustrating to treat in our dogs. The toughest part for us and for many veterinarians is how best to treat a dog that tests positive for Lyme antibodies on our 4DX heartworm test but isn’t showing any clinical signs (symptoms). Because Lyme antibodies can last for a long time, detecting antibodies doesn’t mean that there is actually disease that needs to be treated. It’s not only a pain to give twice daily antibiotics to your dog for a month when they are not necessary, it is also a good way to spread antibiotic resistance. There are sessions on this conundrum at every continuing education conference we go to with lots of varying opinions over the years!
Fortunately, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine recently published a consensus statement from a panel of experts in the field summarizing our current knowledge and providing recommendations going forward.
Veterinary medicine is an ever-evolving field – that is why we love it! Because of this new consensus statement, we are changing what we recommend for follow-up if your dog tests positive for Lyme antibodies on their annual 4DX heartworm test. If this occurs, we now recommend sending out a urinalysis to look for any evidence of protein in your dog’s urine since this can be a hidden sign of Lyme disease. As long as your dog does not have any protein in their urine and is showing no other signs of Lyme disease, no treatment is needed.
If you are worried about your dog’s risk of Lyme disease, any of our doctors are happy to discuss your pet’s individual lifestyle and risk. For all pets in this area, we recommend being on year round oral flea and tick prevention to help reduce the chance of Lyme disease as well as other tick-borne diseases. I have found ticks on my dog, Anya, in the middle of winter after walking her on a paved path around our neighborhood! For dogs that are at a higher risk based on their lifestyle, we also recommend vaccinating for Lyme disease.
Written by Emily Cornwell, DVM, PhD, CertAqV
Map from the Companion Animal Parasite Council showing the percentage of dogs in Maryland that have tested positive for Lyme disease so far this year. Dogs in Montgomery County are considered at a high risk of infection with 6.31% of dogs in our county testing positive for Lyme disease so far this year.